Module DDL-4015:
Agro-ecosystem services

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Organiser: Dr David Styles

Overall aims and purpose

This module will introduce students to the ecosystem services framework to assess pasture-based food production, with an emphasis on the critical importance of considering landscape context and scale factors when assessing the sustainability of farming practices. To demonstrate this in a practical and topical manner, the module will take a global perspective to question whether and how growing demand for livestock products from limited land resources can be met through ‚Äúsustainable intensification‚ÄĚ. The module will explore how the ecosystem services approach can add value to more narrow resource use-efficiency tools such as life cycle assessment and water foot-printing (ATP module DDL-4012) across key sustainability challenges for farming such as management of water, soils, habitats and emissions to air. This can be achieved through separate complementary assessments but also through integrated approaches combining ecosystem services assessment with life cycle thinking. The module will provide students with practical examples of how the ecosystem service delivery of farming systems can be evaluated and improved, using case studies based on the research experience of the module lecturers.

Course content

Week Unit themes (study guides sections) 0 INTRO TO MODULE Intro to DL Course assessment Overview of content 1 AN INTRODUCTION TO ECOSYSTEM SERVICES Provisioning services Regulatory services Supporting and other services 2 ASSESSING ECOSYSTEM SERVICES Scale and context specificities Interaction with other methods (e.g. LCA) Barriers and challenges for assessment
3 BASIC GIS FOR ECOSYSTEM SERVICES 4 VALUING ECOSYSTEM SERVICES 5 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE (interaction with LCA and water foot-printing, indirect effects, high projected demand, need to maintain yields) 6 SUSTAINABLE INTENSIFICATION 7 ECOSYSTEM SERVICES FOR WATER QUALITY 8 WATER CASE STUDY 9 ECOSYSTEM SERVICES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE 10 CLIMATE CHANGE CASE STUDY

Assessment Criteria

threshold

Be able to demonstrate knowledge of, with few factual errors, ecosystem services effects of agricultural systems and measurement methods for the effects. Be able to propose relevant methodologies for assessing the effects of agricultural management practices at the landscape scale in written form, to a descriptive level.

good

In addition to above, demonstrate an ability think critically about the roles of assessment tools, indicators and specific management practices in relation to particular farm, food product and landscape contexts.

excellent

In addition to the above, be able to present well-reasoned arguments for and against the implementation of specific management practices, supported by evidence relating to ecosystem services effects at the global level and demonstrating evidence of wide reading around the subject and an ability to analyse and synthesise arguments and information.

Learning outcomes

  1. Describe and classify ecosystem services

  2. Appraise the dominant effects of livestock production systems on ecosystem services

  3. Explain the importance GIS for ecosystem service assessment, with reference to spatial scale

  4. Determine relevant indicators to assess ecosystem service effects of particular agricultural management actions

  5. Critically evaluate agricultural management options with respect to their global effect on food security and other ecosystem services

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
On-line Forum 30
Presentation 30
Essay question 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Lecture

Online lectures: 15 hours

15
Work-based learning

Discussion forum and coursework

25
Private study

Guided and self-directed reading

160
 

Distance learning with guided reading materials

 
 

Practicals exercises (assessed, unsupervised)

 

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Understand the provisional nature of information and appreciate competing and alternative explanations.
  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • Collect and record data generated by a diverse range of methods.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation